Interview by Matthew Morrison
Dirk Flinthart lives in the north-east of Tasmania with his family, which includes a deranged dog, a neurotic cat, and three children. He has been writing since he was about four years old, but his publishing track record goes back only to somewhere in the late eighties, when he began producing articles for the Student Union paper at University of Queensland. Probably best known for the bestselling How To Be A Man, which he co-wrote with John Birmingham, Flinthart works mostly in speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, and horror. He has both a Ditmar and an Aurealis award on his shelves, as well as a string of short stories in various ‘Year’s Best’ collections over the last decade or so. His novel Path of Night came out on the Fablecroft imprint a while back, and is overdue for a sequel. Dirk also released a collection of short stories Striking Fire through Fablecroft, which was shortlisted for Best Collection and Best Horror Novella in the Aurealis Awards. He has most recently completed a MA through the University of Tasmania.
You always appear to have half-a-dozen projects on the go at once, if past interviews are anything to go by. What does that list look like at the moment?
Okay. There’s a raft of short stuff – anthologies I’ve spotted that seem interesting, ideas I like, stories I wanna tell for the hell of it. Then there’s a project involving some screenwriting that I can’t really talk about, but it’s SF. Also there’s some work with an opera mob. That’s more horror and fantasy, if you like, but it’s challenging and interesting and it’s doing my head in right now. There’s the sequel to Path of Night – or rather, several sequels, including a novella as well as a novel. There’s a horror novel, just because I want to. And there’s something altogether else, which, if it ever comes out will be under an entirely different name and identity. Oh, and the Tasmanian Writers Centre has put me up as a mentor. Ah, yeah, and I’m helping mentor a young writer through the high school my boys attend…
…So I think right there, that’s probably a good list. But you know me: I took up studying 17th century English broadsword combat this year through the Stoccata School of Defense. And I’ve got a number of senior jujitsu students who are working through to high-level brown belt and black belt gradings, and I have to say I consider that a serious project as well. Oh – and I’m also trying to get ahead of the wattle-tree regrowth that’s taking over the property here. Me and my chainsaw…
With your extensive catalogue of work, are there any in particular – stories or achievements – that hold a special significance for you?
Extensive? Thanks! Okay – I think my favourite was producing a Jeremiah Cornelius story for one of Cat Sparks’ Agog! collections. I had to track down Michael Moorcock and get permission to do that, and in the end the story managed to mix up both Jerry Cornelius and Sherlock Holmes, and I was really happy with it. Oh – and I’m also pretty chuffed at finishing my MA in creative writing. The 14,000 word poem which constituted the creative element…yeah. It’s a kind of steampunk Byron pastiche, and I really have to finish the novel that it’s meant to work with. Oh, hell. There’s another project. Ummm…what else? Tough call. I’m loving the scriptwriting stuff. It’s a lot of fun. But I’ll get back to you if and when anything actually hits the screen.
You’ve made your mark as an author in just about all forms of the art as well as across genres. Is there anything you still long to conquer? Is there anything you’re apprehensive about tackling?
Apprehensive about tackling? No. Definitely not. Look – life’s not long enough to hang around on the edge of the pool, shivering and dipping your toe in the water. I love storytelling. I’ll try anything, given the chance. I really can’t talk about the scriptwriting gig at the moment, but I’m happy to say that the folks putting it together have given me a lot of artistic freedom, and I have very much enjoyed using that freedom to push their boundaries past any place they ever expected to see them go. I will say, though: I would love to see my work roll up on screen. I love working collaboratively. Watching a story you’ve created go through the processes of interpretation that other artists bring to it…seeing actors reconstruct your characters, musicians supply an emotional backdrop, directors create images – it’s brilliant. It’s absolutely the best.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Loving Angela Slatter and Alan Baxter, yep. Oh, and I just got to see The Dressmaker, which was pretty damned fine.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Hunter Thompson! No question about it. Long plane trips can get dull. The good doctor was never boring, and with a bit of luck he’d be prepared to divvy up his stash with me. Mind you, that would probably see both of us arrested and then marked “To Be Forgotten” and sent to Guantanamo…but worth it. Yeah.